Remote Control - TV round-up
Brian Donaldson finds a host of documentaries with punks, paranoiacs and poltergeists running amok.
Yes, but is it art? This is the question that the good people of Margate are asking with both their mouths and their eyes as Antony Gormley creates his latest controversy. But rather than the constant Geordie reminder that is his Angel of the North, this work will be the ultimate towering inferno. In Waste Man (Channel 4, Sat 2 Dec, 8pm - 3 stars), we see a Wicker Man-style artifice made out of old junk instead of straw and Edward Woodward. While the K Foundation went to great lengths to burn a million quid for self-promoting self-gratification, this project seeks to draw out a sense of community that has been lost not just to Margate, but to swathes of this nation.
One project which definitely didn’t succeed was when Darren Hercher’s father purchased the Downhill Racer (glorified waltzers essentially) to boost his fairground business back in the late-90s. In Downhill Racer (BBC2, Sat 9 Dec, 10.30pm - 2 stars), Hercher goes back to his roots to see how the firm, now in his uncle’s hands, is coping in a world where youngsters prefer their thrills pushing a few buttons on their PS2. They are not getting on very well. As artful and well-told as it is, this story is just too personal to have any impact and would need a less teary directorial eye to bring it into focus and perhaps give us the bigger sociological picture.
Embroiled in a more desperate tragedy are the Chohans in The Family Who Vanished (Channel 4, Wed 13 Dec, 10pm - 4 stars). This straight-forward but powerful, depressing story tells of the simmering greed and bare-faced malevolence that resulted in the gruesome murders of a businessman, his wife, their two kids and the maternal grandmother, all because a convicted heroin dealer and police informant wanted back in the game now that he had served his time. The unfolding plot hatched to deprive one man of his business before slaughtering his family is painful to watch but the twist in the tale brings a modicum of cold comfort.
In 100% English (More4, Wed 6 Dec, 10pm - 3 stars) some paranoid puffy-chested Anglo Saxons (including Garry Bushell and Carol Thatcher) are rather disconcerted to discover that their sweet chariot might not be swinging quite as low as they’d hoped. Thank god for DNA swabs. National identity was always a complex and contradictory issue for the punk movement during its brief explosion in the mid-70s. However, The Story of Punk (ITV4, Sun 3 Dec, 9pm - 3 stars) prefers to concentrate on the cultural conflict between the anarchists with guitars of Britain and New York. Whereas Johnny Rotten and co revelled in their chaotically ad hoc existence, the CBGB punk pioneers such as Patti Smith, Television and the Ramones were as artful in their approach as they were with the final product. My vote would go to Marquee Moon above Never Mind the Bollocks any day.
Ghost Hunting with Girls Aloud (ITV2, Tue 12 Dec, 9pm - 2 stars) appears to have been a joke set up by the band’s mortal enemy Boy George as they go scouring about a spooky house with the lights switched off and the ghostly night vision camera cranked up to the max. The tall Irish one has had the chills go all the way down to her feet and opted to sit this one out as her pals skulk about a haunted house, for the most part hand-in-hand. One thing’s for sure, the Blair Witch Project and Louis Walsh have an awful lot to answer for.